Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Marijuana paraphernalia and foods confiscated in public schools last year

For the first time ever, last school year Seattle Public Schools filled the safe in which they keep drug-related items confiscated from students.  And they filled one new cabinet.

As of mid-May 2014, Seattle Public Schools data show that 758 drug/alcohol violations were reported.  Violations increased between mid-May and the end of the school year, especially around prom and graduation.  (Data for the entire 2013-14 school year is not yet available.)  Among the violations, 107 were alcohol offenses and 651 were drug offenses -- 98% of which involved marijuana, mostly alone but some in combination with other drugs.  Violations took place at all three levels: 3 were in elementary school, 204 were in middle school, and 551 were in high school.

Another first: last school year was the first time that vaporizing devices for nicotine and/or THC were confiscated.  Edible marijuana products that were bought, not baked at home, also were confiscated.  Marijuana-infused items included lollipops and candy bars likely produced for the medical marijuana market.  Some students who ate marijuana-infused foods overdosed on them while at school.  

Below are some of the "vape pens" and edibles confiscated.

Friday, September 12, 2014

General coalition meeting next week

Prevention WINS will meet:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014
8:00 a.m.
Eckstein Middle School

Agenda items include:

  • Drafted community adolescent substance use prevention plan
  • 2014-15 action plan
  • Show & Tell: Marijuana products & paraphernalia confiscated by schools last year

Everyone concerned about youth drug use in NE Seattle is welcome to attend.  For more information please email us!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New federal rules can make prescription drug disposal more convenient

Until this week, the federal Controlled Substances Act restricted who can dispose of unwanted prescription drugs/controlled substances.  People who wanted to rid themselves of unwanted pharmaceutical controlled substances could give them to law enforcement.  Most people flushed their unused drugs down the toilet, threw them in the trash, or kept them in the household medicine cabinet.  Pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and hospitals were banned from accepting them. 

These limitations made it difficult for people to get rid of their prescription medications in a way that is both safe for people and the environment often resulting in the accumulation of the substances in home medicine cabinets.  Since home medicine cabinets are easily accessible to teenagers, these drugs can be easily obtained for abuse, diversion (sharing, selling), and accidental poisoning. 

To make it easier for people to safely rid their homes of unwanted prescription drugs, the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act was enacted in 2010.  Between then and now, the Drug Enforcement Agency has been developing rules to guide the Act’s implementation.  Their rules were released this week and include the following:

1. People may get rid of unwanted prescription drugs through:
  • Take-back events;
  • Mail-back programs;
  • Collection receptacles. 

2. In addition to law enforcement agencies, the following organizations can collect prescription drugs:
  • Drug manufacturers and distributors;
  • Narcotic treatment programs;
  • Hospitals/clinics with on-site pharmacies;
  • Retail pharmacies.

The rules define how these organizations can collect and dispose of the drugs they collect.  The rules do not mandate any of these options so organizations and communities will need to take the lead in establishing programs voluntarily.  

This is good news for King County’s secure medicine return program which calls for retail pharmacies to have collection receptacles placed in their businesses, allowing for people to dispose of their medications where they likely obtained them.  This is also good news for communities that want to establish take-back programs locally in partnership with organizations other than law enforcement.  

More information about the new rules, including a fact sheet for the general public, is available through the DEA website.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Parenting risk factors decrease as community risk factors increase

Last week, a reporter from the LA Times interviewed three members of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) here at Seattle Children’s Hospital, including me.   The main article focuses on marijuana legalization and how parents in Washington are talking to their kids about it.  Two other articles focus on what parents and teenagers should know. 

The main article points out that there has been an increase in youth marijuana use among NE Seattle teenagers.  Though the article mostly focuses on parenting, the risk factors associated with parenting and youth drug use have gotten better in NE Seattle since 2006.  Most of the Prevention WINS coalition’s work focuses on increasing parenting skills proven to prevent teen drug use.

Source: WA Healthy Youth Survey
Despite parenting risk factors decreasing in NE Seattle, marijuana use rates have steadily increased.  Why?  The Healthy Youth Survey tells us that community-related risk factors have increased during the same time period. 

Source: WA Healthy Youth Survey
While parent education remains a priority for Prevention WINS, and evidence-based prevention programs will continue to be offered to middle school students, the need to address community risk factors is evident.  When the larger community discusses youth marijuana use prevention, they often focus on parenting.  However, as our local data seem to indicate, prevention needs to include the wider community. 

Access to marijuana needs to be addressed.  Community norms need to be addressed.  Enforcement of underage laws needs to be addressed.  The Prevention WINS coalition cannot address the multiple risk factors associated with youth drug use alone.  Individuals and organizations throughout Seattle need to step up and address the factors they influence.  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Parents connecting with parents important for preventing teen drug use

Most people know that teaching parents how to guide their children so that they make healthy decisions is part of a multi-pronged strategy for preventing adolescent drug use.  But what does that mean?  What can parents actually do?

One thing that parents can do is connect with other parents.  Making connections with the parents of your child's friends opens up opportunities to discuss views on teen drug use.  Many parents are surprised to find out that the vast majority of parents think that teen drug use is unacceptable, even in high school.  In fact, when Prevention WINS conducts surveys among NE Seattle parents, more than 90% agree that teenagers should not use drugs, including alcohol.

Connecting with other parents also makes it easier to monitor your child.  It makes it easier to call another parent to make sure your child is at a friend's house and that there are no drugs, including alcohol, available.

In the video below, Dr. Leslie R. Walker from Seattle Children's Hospital talks about why connecting with other parents is important.


The beginning of a school year provides many opportunities for parents to connect with one another.  Curriculum nights, PTSA-sponsored socials, and sporting events are just a few opportunities during which parents can easily connect with others.